Jose Mourinho’s first chance to collect a trophy as Manchester United manager will come at the end of this month when the Portuguese coach’s side take on Southampton in the final of the EFL Cup at Wembley. In what has been a tough first season at Old Trafford for Mourinho, the enigmatic Portuguese coach seems to have finally turned things around, guiding the club into the League Cup Final as well as the quarter-finals of the Europa League. Currently sixth in the Premier League, the title might already be out of United’s reach, but a top four finish and a return to the Champions League is a very realistic target for Zlatan et al.
Before the season enters its home straight, though, the club have a great chance at picking up the first real piece of silverware of the year. After coming through their two-legged semi-final against Hull City with a 3-2 aggregate win, United booked their place in their first League Cup Final since 2010. Aside from their 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the fourth round, the Red Devils have had a relatively easy run to the final. The same can’t be said for Southampton, who have had to beat Arsenal and Liverpool on their way to securing their place at Wembley this month.
It’s been a mixed season for Southampton’s new manager Claude Puel. Having replaced Ronald Koeman in the summer, things haven’t gone entirely to plan for the Frenchman and his new club, picking up just two wins since the start of 2017. While their form in the Premier League hasn’t been great, especially since the turn of the year, Southampton have been impressive in their EFL Cup run, not conceding a goal on their way to the final. Priced at around 4/1 in the League Cup betting to beat United, Southampton have more than enough tools to spring what would be a relative upset.
For United, summer signings Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have all been instrumental the club’s solid form throughout this season, losing just five games in all competitions all year. While Mourinho might have used the League Cup as a chance to rest some of his key players this season, it’s hard to imagine that being the case when it comes to the final of a tournament the club have won on four occasions during their history.
Southampton, meanwhile, have been keen to put their strongest foot forward for the majority of their EFL Cup run, and that has been a key factor behind the club’s perfect record in the tournament. With it looking increasingly likely that the club will have to settle for another mid-table finish, Puel and his Saints team will be even more determined to put in a strong showing at Wembley. Having never won the League Cup during their history, Southampton will be determined to make sure this season is a memorable one and their run to the final isn’t in vain.